Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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January 2001 Issue
Contents of the online version:
Ceilidh at Mallaig & Morar Community Centre
Melting snow making appropriate shapes on Dolphin House!
The new Mallaig & Morar Community Centre had its unofficial opening on Boxing day and it is agreed - it's a fine building and it was a great ceilidh!
The project, at a total cost (so far) of £735,000, has taken a year to complete, and provides the community with meeting rooms, a badminton court in the main hall, a portable stage, and public toilets. The Library, LCNL Computer and the Campus will also be housed there after the end of the month.
The celebrations began with an afternoon disco for the children - kindly run by Keith Eddie. The early evening concert was opened with prayers from Father Michael Hutson and Reverend Ben Johnston, followed by excellent performances of music, song and dance from a range of primary and high school pupils.
There were also appearances from Jill de Fresnes and Shivan McDonnell, as well as Viv de Fresnes, Ross Martin, Gabe MacVarish and Duncan Nicolson.
Thanks go to Shivan McDonell and the staff of Mallaig and Lady Lovat Primaries from the Association for contributing to making the event such a success.
'Blazing Fiddles' gave an excellent performance before joining in with the dancing to Brian and The Boys, who kept everyone on their feet until 2 am. Time ran out for the final Ceilidh set which had to be abandoned.
The mosaic project was completed on 23rd of December, giving it just enough time to set before the celebrations. Niki Robertson of the MMCCA said, 'Thanks are due to Alan Potter who worked extremely hard to have it finished in time. If anyone who was involved in the project has not seen the end result yet, please get in touch with a committee member if you would like to go over to the hall to have a look.'
She went on: 'We would like to thank everyone who was involved in helping with the opening of the new Community Centre. Organisation of the event was hurried due to committee members having other commitments (including their own family Christmas preparations!) not to mention the completion of the new building itself - so we thank everyone for their patience.
We would like to thank everyone who attended the event for their co-operation with the new 'no smoking or drinks in the main hall' rule. We are all unused to this rule but if we stick to it then, undoubtedly, it will prolong the life and condition of the good quality sports flooring that we now have. On the whole, a very positive response was received towards both the event and the facility itself and we hope that it will be used regularly for all kinds of activities in the future.'
To satisfy fire regulations numbers had to be limited hence the 'ticketed' events of the evening and the Association apologises to anyone who wanted a ticket but could not get one. 'They sold unbelievably fast!' said Niki. 'Contrary to rumours sales were entirely on a first come first served basis and a good mixture of the local community attended and seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously. Fire safety regulations dictate that permitted a maximum of 250 people are permitted in the building, and this has to include any helpers, stewards, bar staff and performers (the old hall had a limit of 180). With a population of around 1250 between Mallaig and Morar - it was inevitable that some people would be disappointed. Because of the imposed limit on numbers, the only solution was to ticket the event.'
Arisaig & South Morar War Records
Great interest was aroused by our story last month of this beautiful book which was found in the Astley Hall when it was being cleared out prior to renovation. We were all too busy then to spend time trying to open the locked box, and it spent the year being stored at the Centre during the winter and in one of my bedrooms in the summer!
The magnificent 'time capsule' which was eventually revealed caught the imagination of the press. It had front page coverage on the Lochaber News and national papers took it up too, with a piece in the Herald and a page apiece in the Express and the Scotsman. We were told we'd get more coverage than Madonna's wedding, which was featured on the same day!
More will be written about the book and its contents in future West Words, and we'll print extracts from the book.
There are some fascinating diaries and letters and an account of the dedication of the War Memorial in 1920, when Locheil came on the train to be met by a guard of honour. A diary belonging to John Carr, RN, a wireless operator on HMS Beltana, makes fascinating reading. His ship goes to Australia to pick up troops, and from there to South Africa with soldiers on board dying daily - of the measles.
The book has had one public showing and a lot of people didn't get the chance to see it - but they will. We have to be careful with it so that its perfect condition doesn't deteriorate. We are taking expert advice on temperature and light conditions for its display and we will have it photographed professionally for a copy for people to look through. A copy will go to the Fort William museum and possibly elsewhere.
Naming of The Green Isle
The newest boat in the Mallaig fleet was named Green Isle on Friday 22nd. December 2000 in a ceremony which included a blessing from Fr Hutson.
Following the naming ceremony a celebratory social evening was held in the West Highland Hotel.
The Green Isle, Registration No. OB945, was built by the Tenogomes Yard in Sesimbra, Portugal, for the Castlebay Fishing Co. which is owned by Noel and Anthony Kenning. Gibson Weir and Denholm Fishselling Ltd.
NEWS from the ISLE OF EIGG
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!
After what was hopefully, an enjoyable Christmas and New Year for all West Word readers, we face the worst two months of any year - I think January and February are the dustcart months that come after the Lord Mayor's Show!!
But let us first go back to the end of November when just two weeks after our wonderful new ferry, the Lochnevis came into service, we were told by Cal Mac that no longer were they willing to transport 45 Gallon Barrels or Gas Cylinders (although they did relent on the Gas after an outcry from the islands). Most people are willing to accept that barrels full of Diesel or Kerosene are not very safe dangling from a wire rope high above the flitboats, and more importantly, the crew, but isn't this just another manifestation of the folly of foisting such a huge boat onto us! Almost immediately we have a worse service than we had before - and the general feeling of those who know about these things- is that it would probably get much worse if the undesirable pier were built on Sgeir nam Bagh (or almost anywhere in that area of Eigg). They predict than the Captains would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to dock in certain wind directions, and those being the ones which they would encounter most frequently during the winter months. Perhaps Cal Mac should try to prove the prophets of doom wrong by sailing through the "perches" in all sea states NOW before any further discussions takes place and certainly before any final decisions are taken.!
Meanwhile a steering committee has been established dedicated to the implementation of the almost unanimous wishes recorded at the vote taken in October by the Residents Association, refusing to accept a causeway or the Sgeir nam Bagh option for a new pier, and opting to mount a campaign to secure a ferry service based on Galmisdale pier, which is where it is needed, and where we wished it to remain from the outset. It was never Eigg's intention for a pier to be built costing millions of pounds or for the provision of a ferry large enough for it to be necessary.
On a happier note, Eigg has enjoyed all the usual Christmas celebrations plus a new one. A great meal was provided by the tearoom Directors for all the ladies, their intention was to say 'thank you ' to those who have worked in the tearoom throughout the year, both employed and voluntary, it was a nice gesture and greatly appreciated! The Lunch Club Christmas Dinner, sadly the elderly very thin on the ground this year, but a lovely dinner as usual, provided by Sheena and Amber. After the children's Christmas Party Santa arrived promptly, summoned by "Jingle Bells" and preceded (in the absence of Rudolf - was it him who finished up in a number of our freezers?), by our excellent female piper, and met as usual beside the tree by Morag who dived into Santa's big sack and distributed the parcels. Later Bean set up the Karaoke and the youngsters took full advantage, sometimes with more enthusiasm than talent, except for Kay's rendering of "Dream a Little Dream for Me" but hopefully at a future date, some more of our talented islanders may be persuaded to have a "go".
Catherine Davies's basket making was attended by far too few but it fell on a bad day, the day before Christmas Eve is usually a very busy time for mums with families to cater for.
Our new flitboat was something of a shock to many of us. It is painted black and is the ugliest boat we have ever seen and has been dubbed "The Black Pig", but if it is sufficiently seaworthy and manoeuvrable for the crew to cope with in all seas, so be it! There is certainly plenty of space for both passengers and freight which can't be bad. We shall see!
As I finish this month's contribution and unusually for here, there is lots of snow outside and several of us are suffering frozen cold water pipes! - No water- we shall just have to drink the Talisker!
ISLE OF MUCK
Christmas and New Year are now over and once more it is my task to cover the highlights of the holiday.
On the 20th. December it was the school nativity play 'The angry Innkeeper' with Angus Graves starring as the innkeeper, and his acting was superb in a cast which was excellent. Weel done, Angus, Jamie, Katy, Hannah and Phoebe, and of course the producer Eilidh Henderson!
Christmas itself was marked by the change in the weather and the rain and gales departed for a time.
Christmas Eve saw many of the islanders in the sheep fank at The Square lit by a hundred candles singing carols till midnight with the help of a steaming pot of mulled wine. The Christmas Day service was at the farm where our reduced community cold comfortably squeeze into the sitting room. We had Anne Austin to accompany our singing on the piano.
Wednesday's snow caused great excitement among the youngsters and reminded us all of the wonderful week five years ago. There was more snow this time, about 10 inches and some large drifts.
We quickly started feeding the cows which were not on silage already on oat straw, and the ewes in the fields on hay.
Hogmanay saw us all at Port Mor House for a ceilidh and on New Year's Day the tide just ebbed in time for the traditional hockey match on the sand before first footing recommenced.
What does 2001 have in store? It is always risky to predict the future but there is a reasonable prospect of the new slipway at Port Mor being completed, the big barn at Gallanach receiving a new roof and the story of Eilidh the Castaway Pony appearing as a beautifully illustrated book.
Best wishes for the year ahead from those of us in Knoydart. It is a beautiful frosty morning here, the sun is shining and everything is crisp and bright. Here's hoping that the colder snap may dispense with the lingering flu bugs which surfaced around the festive season.
During December a Pakistani film unit slipped quietly into Knoydart and proceeded to make what was said to be an amateur 'soap' video for private consumption. This was filmed both indoors and out from the water but judging by the equipment used and vast amount of script and from what eventually transpired, a large commercial venture, which, by their own admission, would go out world-wide through Sky TV.
The Knoydart Foundation has been successful in being awarded a developmental grant by the National Lottery Charities Board, which will fund the Development Manager's position and office. The Development Manager has been appointed and will commence work in February.
The Knoydart Forest Trust has also been successful in being awarded a development grant for three years. This will be used towards development and administration costs.
There has been a problem with the Hydro Scheme, which happens on an annual basis and at times in between. Now almost all funding is in place to enable a major re-furbishment to start in April/May of this year. Meanwhile it is hoped that a more reliable and stable electricity supply will be available through a diesel generator, before any more domestic appliances grind to a halt.
On a lighter note, the children of Inverie Primary School gave a public performance of sketches and an hilarious puppet show to round off the term. There was also a bazaar in the village hall with the sake of their home made artifacts.
On Christmas Eve a candlelit carol concert was well attended. Piers successfully grappled with the idiosyncrasies of the ancient organ and Jo organized an amusing rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas, in which members of the congregation took individual and combined parts.
So, away we go into 2001 with visitor bookings already mounting and the month of May fully take up.
Thanks, Ewan for the conger eel, which you and Roger assured me was dead. On immersion in the sink for cleaning, it took on a new lease of life and tried to escape!
Everyone's tree seemed to be late up this year and Arisaig was no exception. Many thanks to James Colston for a long slow trip to collect it for us, thanks again to Gerry and helpers for erecting it, and thanks to Knoydart for sending it over.
The children's party was its usual success and how nice to see Ann Cameron with the Dancing Man! Our thanks to everyone who helped, to Jackie and Daphne for the baking ,and to Santa of course. Also many thanks to Mallaig Lodge, who gave us selection packs and fruit, and to Sonia for the Millennium hooters!
There were about 40 children there, which means I had the best part of 30 presents to dish out afterwards. I will get round to it eventually, but it would really help if you would come to collect if you weren't able to be there.
The New Year Dance was so good the coat rack fell off the wall in the Hall! Well, said Pod, he'd not really thought anyone would hang coats on it. There must have been nearly 200 on the pegs on New Year's Day and the nails didn't hold! Never mind, the men are there now finishing off the snagging and sorting out little problems like the heating for the main hall. It was a great ceilidh, I understand, and we were pleased to have Fergie back on stage.
The Regatta Association is having its AGM and an Open Meeting on Friday 12th. January. The committee are very keen to involve more people in the planning and in the day itself so if you have a good idea go along and tell them about it.
As things get back to normal more and more meetings have to be held to get things running smoothly. We must soon have a Hall Committee meeting to decide a number of various issues, the most important of which is the cleaning of the Hall. The Ceildhan will re-start too to organize a calendar of events, and there have been some good ideas we want to carry forward. The more people who come forward to be involved, the less work there is for each to do.
The Land, Sea and Islands Centre held a popular couple of events; the Floral Art exhibition in the Hall and the Open Day at the Centre the following day. The Women' s Guild were at both with lots of home baking. Thank you to everyone who helped top make both events a success, which raised £330 for the Centre.
An excellent Cookery Book was published in Arisaig recently, in aid of Hall Funds, and besides some very good recipes there was also lots of snippets about the local area and quotations from famous people interspersed throughout the book.
However, in the case of 'Camusdarach', an error appears, through misinformation given to the authors, which said that the Chief of Glengarry had built Camusdarach and that his daughter, Elizabeth Montgomery, had died therein.
The place was built around 1856 by Aeneas MacDonell. Who was he? Lieutenant Colonel Donald MacDonell was the third son of Ranald MacDonell of Scotus (Old Scotus), a branch of Glengarry, who served in Loudon's Regiment during the '45 and was taken prisoner by his own father, Domhnal nan Glean, Younger of Scotus, in a skirmish in Sutherland.
Lt. Col. Donald was married to Ann MacDonald of Rhu and Lochshiel (Dalilea), whose father was known in his day as 'Old Rhu', and features in Moidart, or Among the Clanranalds, written by Fr. Charles MacDonald, Parish Priest in Moidart at the turn of the 19th. - 20th. Century.
Their children were: 1) Aeneas, born 1821; 2) Anne, b. 1823; 3) Donald, b, 1826; 4) Catherine, b. 1828.
Aeneas married Catherine Sidgreaves of Inglewhite Hall in Lancashire. He was an Advocate at the Scottish Bar and practised for some years after leaving Edinburgh University.
They had as family: 1) Ranald, who died unmarried; 2) James; 3) Alistair, and 4) Catherine, who married Major H. F. Lyons Montgomery.
Therefore Elizabeth Montgomery was his grand-daughter.
Aeneas died at Camusdarach on 13th. January 1898.
He had purchased the Estate of South Morar from Ronald MacDonald, who had claimed the Estate in 1853 when male heirs ran out of the old Morar family of Simon MacDonald,
who is buried inside the old church at St. Mary's in Arisaig and a memorial plaque in sandstone on the wall reads:
Sacred to the memory of
Amelia saw her husband and all children into the grave. Ronald MacDonald, an American by emigration, promptly sold up and cleared off, never to be heard of again.
Archie MacDonald of Rhu and Lochshiel (father of Anne mother of Aeneas) was the elder son of John MacDonald, 4th. Son of Angus MacDonald of Borrodale, who was second son of John MacDonald of Glenalladale.
Angus had 4 sons, of which the eldest was Alexander, who went abroad, amassed a fortune in the West Indies, came back home and purchased the Estate of Glenalladale from his cousin, John Viii of Glenalladale, who went to Canada with a lot of Uist emigrants in 1773 to new land he's purchased in Prince Edward Island in 1771.
The progenitor of the Borrodale and Glenalladale families was Ian Oig, a son of Ian Muidartach VIII, chief of Clanranald, the victor over the Frasers at Blár Leiné in 1544, forever known as the 'Battle of the Shirts', but that is another story.
Aeneas MacDonell, to sum up, was a grandson of 'Old Scotus' and a grandson of 'Old Rhu', neither of whom were chiefs.
Thus the land of South Morar which had never been out of the hands of MacDonald since 1120 at the time of Somerled, was in the hands of a MacDonell, who in turn sold to Nicholson, Arisaig Estate, after going bankrupt trying to drain and reclaim Keppoch Moss.
The great thing was to have a barra. Strong hands helped to make one. Onto the wheels of an old pram, a box of some kind was fixed with a pair of handles, and 'Bob's your uncle', there was your barra. Endless fun giving each other a hurl! Handy, too, for going for the like of potatoes, or for bits of coal from up the line.
Another joy was to have a boat. You shaped one out of a bit of wood. With a bit of help you stuck on a mast and a sail. One or two boasted a bought yacht, but to make your own was great fun. Where did we sail? Along the fringes of the bay, down to the piers, or in some big pond at the Point. Oh!! the bliss of the long summer days!
A highlight of the year was the Sunday School trip. At first it was with Jimmy Gatt's white horse and cart; he had washed the fish scales off it. (Jimmy had a protruding cheek-bone, the result of a war wound I think.)
Later it was by train to Morar, then down a track to the sands of the river. What fun ensued! Ball games. Races for all, including egg and spoon, sack race, three-legged race, the minister starting off each with his whistle. We demolished apple, orange, bag of buns, bursting the bags in one great bang.
Jimmy and Mary Gatt belonged to Pennan; they were neighbours ofours at the Point. When a minister, I visited Mary in Fraserburgh hospital. She couldn't see well, but, when my name was mentioned, she told all and sundry that I was one of the nickums that tormented her in Mallaig. Mary Ann and Wuldie Fordyce were other neighbours, Peterhead folk like us. She kept a sweetie shop, and she stood no nonsense. I took her funeral in Peterhead, commenting that, 'with Mary Ann, her bark was worse than her bite'. When a student I took Wuldie's funeral in Mallaig, as the minister was away at the time. They lie quite near my folks in Peterhead Cemetery.
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